December 3, 2015

A "Harry Potter" Copyright Review Session

Copyright law both incentivizes creative works, such as the bestselling J.K. Rowling "Harry Potter" series, and also governs what fans can do with the works that they grow to love and know so well. Are the handmade Harry Potter-inspired jewelry, t-shirts, and Hogwarts robes for sale on the popular website illegal? What about a Girls Scouts Harry Potter-themed summer camp? What is ETSY's liability for the copyright infringement of the do-it-yourself fan-artists who share and sell their wares on the site?

My copyright course ended today with a final lecture on "fair use" and a Harry Potter-themed review session. I served "butterbeer" to the students (no alcohol, just lots of sugar!). Now the students are ready to confront issues of copyright in a digital age and the rights of users to command the tools of Web 2.0 to share their own views on the cultural works that help form our identities and communities. As I argue in my Yale University Press book, From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice (2012), "It is precisely because culture is so influential in shaping our world and our selves that individual rights to debate it and participate in its remaking are imperative."

Raj as "Mad Eye" Moody, and me as Harry Potter

It was great to see the students dressed up as their favorite characters -- including Raj Pai, chair of the King Hall Intellectual Property Law Association (KHIPLA), as Professor "Mad Eye" Moody!